The Ukrainians were impressive on Matchday 3 in Stuttgart. Throughout the strongly contested match against Belgium on Wednesday, they looked the better side. They had several chances against the third-best team in the world, and they came close to taking the lead on several occasions. The opportunities would be missed, however, and the match eventually resulted in a goalless draw.

The points would be shared between Belgium and Ukraine. Meanwhile, group opponents Romania and Slovakia also fought to a draw. The results meant that all four teams in Group E ended up with one victory, one draw, and one loss. Of the four sides, Ukraine had the worst goal difference.

Ukraine was unlucky. Despite finishing with four points after three matches, Ukraine found itself at the bottom of Group E. This knocked them out of the competition. Unfortunately for Ukraine, they also set a new record. This was the first time in the competition’s history where a team with four points had failed to progress to the knockout stages.


What happened in Ukraine’s match against Belgium? What led to Ukraine’s early exit from the competition?

The first item was the squad selection for the game. When Ukraine’s starting lineup was announced an hour before kickoff, it was noted that Ukrainian manager Serhiy Rebrov opted to play five defenders so that he could keep Belgium’s dangerous forwards at bay. Rebrov also selected a midfield with three young players, and he played two forwards. On the surface, it appeared that Ukraine would try to play for a draw.

Rebrov 'Proud' Despite Ukraine's Exit at Euro 2024
Other Topics of Interest

Rebrov 'Proud' Despite Ukraine's Exit at Euro 2024

All four teams finished level on four points in Group E, but Ukraine finished bottom on goal difference after a damaging 3-0 loss to Romania in their opening match.

This was a risky strategy. If Ukraine were to draw with Belgium, in order to progress to the competition’s knockout stages, they would need help from their group opponents. In the case of a draw, Ukraine needed either Romania or Slovakia to win in the other match. A draw between these two sides would not help Ukraine, but this is exactly what happened.

The second item was that Ukraine failed to score. From the start of the match until the final whistle, the Ukrainians outplayed the Belgians. In the opening minutes of the game, the Ukrainians invited pressure from the Belgians, forcing them to play the ball out wide, and their opponents never seemed to threaten the Ukrainian goal. The first serious effort in the match came in the 21st minute when Ukrainian forward Roman Yaremchuk collected the ball at the top of the box. He fired at the Belgian goal, but goalkeeper Koen Casteels made an important save. Moments later, Ukrainian forward Artem Dovbyk had an opportunity but he saw his shot go wide.


As the match progressed, Belgium had some good spells of their own. In the 32nd minute, Belgium won a freekick in Ukraine’s half. Kevin De Bruyne stood over the ball, and in quick succession, he tried to catch out goalkeeper Anatoliy Trubin. The Ukrainian was quick to his feet, however, and De Bruyne’s shot went wide.

Ten minutes later, Ukraine had one of the best chances of the match. Ukrainian midfielder Mykola Shaparenko flicked the ball past the Belgian defense to his teammate Yaremchuk. The Ukrainian forward then opted to pass the ball across the goal to teammate Dovbyk instead of shooting. Dovbyk was unable to convert the cross, however, and the Belgians survived their first scare. Ukraine continued to pressure Belgium, but by halftime, both sides were level.


When the second half began, the match was more of the same. Knowing that the match between Romania and Slovakia was level at 1-1 at halftime, Ukraine knew that they needed to score against Belgium in order to progress to the competition’s knockout stages. There were several opportunities where it could have happened.

During the 74th minute, Dovbyk collected the ball from a Ukrainian throw-in. The forward controlled the ball well and he fired toward the Belgian goal, but it was saved by Casteels. Several minutes later, Dovbyk collected the ball again on the opposite side of the Belgian goal. The forward shot the ball on a tight angle, but it hit the side netting.

By the 80th minute, the Ukrainians began to realize that they were running out of time. Several Ukrainian fans and spectators were shouting that the match between Romania and Slovakia remained in a 1-1 stalemate, and it was assumed that both the Romanians and the Slovaks would be content with finishing their match in a draw. This meant that Ukraine needed to score against Belgium. Otherwise, they would be eliminated.


The moment nearly came. First, in the 83rd minute, Ukraine won a corner. Realizing that Belgian goalkeeper Casteels was distracted, Ukrainian midfielder Ruslan Malinovskyi took the corner quickly and fired the ball into the bottom corner of the goal. It startled Casteels, but the Belgian managed to prevent the ball from crossing the line. Then, in the dying minutes of stoppage time, Heorhiy Sudakov collected the ball and danced his way into the Belgian penalty box. Having made his way past the Belgian defense, he only had the goalkeeper to beat. The young Ukrainian, however, rushed his shot. Rather than taking another touch and firing at the far post, he opted to shoot quickly. Unfortunately for Ukraine, his effort was right at Casteels. The Ukrainians missed their chances to convert, and by full time, the game ended in a goalless draw. Elsewhere, the game between Romania and Slovakia ended in a 1-1 draw. These results meant that Romania, Belgium, and Slovakia would progress to the competition’s knockout stages. Ukraine had failed to progress.

Despite being the better side throughout the majority of the match, the Ukrainians were unable to score. They were punished by failing to be clinical in front of goal. Now, as their group rivals progress to the Round of 16, the Ukrainian national team will be forced to watch the remainder of EURO 2024 from their personal homes.

Ukraine will be disappointed not to progress, but they at least will hold their heads high. They should be proud of their display against Belgium. They displayed flashes of talent and they took one of the world’s strongest sides. Ultimately, it was not their day.


Mark Temnycky is an accredited freelance journalist covering Eurasian affairs and a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. He can be found on X @MTemnycky

The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.

To suggest a correction or clarification, write to us here
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter